Anthrax – For All Kings


Kings indeed.

Review by Jason Guest

Nuclear Blast

Release: 26 February 2016

Since 2011’s Worship Music, the Anthrax abode has seen Rob Caggiano depart and Shadows Fall guitarist Jonathan Donais join as lead guitarist. Given what’s been happening in the Anthrax abode since 2005 – the poorly-handled situation with John Bush and the reunion with Spitz and Belladona and then all that stuff with finding a singer and eventually getting an album released – you’d be forgiven for expecting a bit more drama these past five years. But no, Anthrax have been hard at it supporting Worship Music in many a live venue the world over, recording the 2013 Anthems covers EP (reviewed here), releasing the Chile On Hell live DVD, contributing a track to the Game of Thrones Catch the Throne: The Mixtape, Volume 2, and writing and recording a new album (drummer Charlie Benante started writing at home as early as 2012 while having to miss out on the European tour because of carpal tunnel syndrome in his hand). A busy few years for the band, yes, but finally the record that Scott Ian has called “the most metal record we have made in a long, long time” is upon us.

Being written and recorded with Joey Belladonna more firmly established as “in the band”, it seems that Ian, Benante and Bello have been able to write with much more focus. Knowing their vocalist is a factor that has long served this band well, perhaps more so in the Belladonna era than in the Bush era. Compare, say, Among The Living and Persistence of Time with Spreading The Disease and the difference is more than apparent, whereas between Sound of White Noise and We’ve Come For You All, the band seemed to stagnate. Okay, there are a number of great songs across those four albums but other than …White Noise, none of the other three albums stand up to that or any of those of the early Belladonna days.

Re-joining for Worship Music let Belladonna show the band what they’d been missing and how good they were together. For my money, John Bush wouldn’t have fit that record and judging from the performances scattered across YouTube, Dan Nelson’s erratic style – one minute sounding like Bush, the next a feeble Phil Anselmo impersonator (without the racism of course) – was far too inconsistent for him to do the songs justice. With the Anthems EP, Anthrax was further able to rediscover their combined strengths and establish common ground for them to thrive. Combined with all the time they’ve since spent on stage, Anthrax have found their feet and delivered an album easily on a par with Worship Music and one that sounds and feels like an album written and played by a band.

So, the songs. There are two brief instrumentals – opener ‘Impaled’ and mid-album ‘Breathing Out’ – which are both good in that they serve their purpose, the first as intro, the second as a brightly contrasting break from the heft of the tracks that make up the album proper. There are huge riffs and catchy hooks aplenty across the record, the two tracks that have already been released – ‘Evil Twin’ and ‘Breathing Lightning’ – both are a good indication of what to expect from the record. As the album proceeds, it gets heavier. So while ‘You Gotta Believe’ (this album’s ‘Fight ‘em ‘til You Can’t’), ‘Monster At The End’ and the title track lean on the groove and the melody, from ‘Breathing Lightning’, the rage rises until ‘Defend Avenge’ has Anthrax biting down hard right up until the last thrashing blast of ‘Zero Tolerance’.

Jay Ruston’s part in the album has been highly praised by the band and his presence as the “sixth member” on the album can is very much felt. According to a recent interview, he spent more time on the record than the individual members. Here, he’s brought out the best in their performances, captured the band’s essence and ensured that Jonathan Donais sounds as much a part of the band as any of the other four members. Where Spitz leant more towards the all-out thrash end of the spectrum and Caggiano leant more towards the melodic, Donais’s range is broader and his voice feels more suited to the Anthrax sound. When it’s dirt that’s needed, there it is; when a melodic approach is required, he brings it; and when Belladonna hits the mark, he takes it and runs with it to enhance the song and make it all feel so seamless, as if he had been in Anthrax much longer than these past three years.

This is a different Anthrax, a more honed Anthrax, a more refined version of what we’ve heard throughout their career and more so on Worship Music. The trials and tribulations that they’ve gone through over the years – some inevitable, some self-inflicted – have always informed Anthrax and they’ve emerged the stronger for it and produced great material. And For All Kings is no exception. In terms of songwriting and musicianship, Anthrax have nailed it. This is the metal album that Ian said it would be, and an exceptional one at that. Kings indeed.

Anthrax – For All Kings9 out of 10

Track listing:

  1. Impaled
  2. You Gotta Believe
  3. Monster At The End
  4. For All Kings
  5. Breathing Lightning
  6. Breathing Out
  7. Suzerain
  8. Evil Twin
  9. Blood Eagle Wings
  10. Defend Avenge
  11. All Of Them Thieves
  12. This Battle Chose Us
  13. Zero Tolerance